Commune Snapshots – Sam Acorn

Sam drewssed up

before the party

 

Sam dirty 2

After Arson clean up

 

Sam tennis guitar

before her big audition

 

sam harp better

with her big friend

 

sam back harp

bye

 

The Sharp Edge of the Tool

While on the recent Point A trip, a hybrid group of Catalonyians and Acorn-affiliates met in the cozy basement room of a bodywork studio in Brooklyn. Paxus introduced this group of charismatic New Yorkers and communards to the transparency tools.

But rather a key to a new way of seeing each other

But rather a key to a new way of seeing each other

The Catalysts are an incredibly clever bunch. These folks know that if they do a good job crafting their agreements and cultural fabric, they can create an amazing eco-village.  And while they are a fundamentally fun loving and playful crowd, community building is difficult work and they have been hard at it.  Especially drafting written agreements- for everything.  For land ownership, for the membership process, for the types of cottage industries that might happen, the mission statement- the tasks go on and on. Important, complex and often slogging work.

This is not actually what this group of people wants to be doing. What they want to be doing is falling in love. This is where the transparency tools come in.

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We all know that a great eco village is built on the foundation of love… and spreadsheets

I have experience with some of the transparency tools used, as I used to be part of a meditation community in DC in which we met 2x a month to have a sit followed by a discussion.

Often in this format and during retreats (which happen twice a year) we used the “If you really knew me…” and Hot Seat tools. I’ve already witnessed how effective they can be in bringing a group together, and it was no different with the Catalysts.

penetrating questions designed to reveal you - not necessarily heal you

penetrating questions designed to reveal you – not necessarily heal you

Frequently when starting, it takes a round or two of “If you really knew me” statements for everyone to start to open up. What was so beautiful about this night in particular was each person became transparent almost immediately. People were sharing their stories with each other so willingly and with so much faith that the group wanted to hear them.

We transitioned from “If you really knew me” statements to Hot Seats, the Catalysts asking questions and Paxus explaining the benefits of the many tools.

Due to the wacky Point A trip agenda and time constraints, we were only able to fit in three 5-minute Hot Seats. The group did an excellent job being clear with their questions and answers, and everyone involved continued to be engaged.

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Dream eco-village material

To wrap up the evening, Paxus began to explain the tools that go beyond being personally transparent and begin to create transparency in relationships. Specifically, these tools are Unsaids and Withholds. These tools can create space for resolution of conflict as well as giving members an opportunity to appreciate one another. They are also notoriously tricky.

This point in the evening is when things really got interesting. Despite Pax expecting to solely explain Unsaids/Withholds and not try to do any that evening, members of the group began to use the tools without any hesitation. Several conflicts were put on the path to resolution within ten minutes, with the tools used practically flawlessly.

Let me see inside of you

Let me see inside of you

What then evolved seemingly naturally- after what could be seen as complaining or criticism of the Withholds- was the graceful move into appreciations, which were equally rich and revealing.  As we left it was clear the group wanted more. The Point A crowd- which are in some sense carpetbaggers from Virginia trying to build community in NYC- felt like we had really done our job.

UVA Rape Protest Trial

I have always wanted to hang a jury.  I have been fortunate that all my court appearances (except the Acorn Arson) have been elective – I chose to get arrested.  But I have never had a real chance to hang a jury, until today.  I have been guilty of dozens of trespass charges against me and I have never argued that point. To hang a jury I need to get at least one positive answer to the question “Has the injustice I am fighting directly impacted at least one member of the jury intimately?”  For nuclear power or a pending war the jury is usually quite removed from these issues.

Today I was on trial for our highly publicized arrests at the UVA fraternities last November protesting their support and participation in rape culture.  Someone on this jury has been touched by this crime.  Some sister or daughter or dear friend has been sexually assaulted and this juror has watched helplessly as their loved ones’ life unraveled.

unlearn rape culture

I desperately wanted to remind this juror of their pain and their frustration with the broken legal system which oppressed their intimate and generally ignores this crime.  I wanted to beg them, in the name of their friend, to see past the trivial trespass and instead see how this court, police and culture helps perpetuate this problem.  I wanted to call for the system to be put on trial, not me.

Tragically, the odds would be heavily in my favor.  Statistically, with twelve jurors, my chances that at least one of them would have gone through this ordeal are nearly 100%.  Sexual assault is endemic in the US and the powers that be are mostly uninterested in addressing it in any meaningful way.

Edmund gets arrested at UVa Fraternity

Edmund gets arrested at UVA Fraternity

Sadly, I did not do it today.  Fighting in the courts is a long and time consuming process.  Judges are quite resistant to cases looking outside the specifics of the charges before them.  And the court fees associated with a failed not guilty plea would exceed $1000 because the defendant must pay the jury stipend.  This is a chunk of change on the commune stipend.    Instead, like my co-defendants I plead guilty and was given 44 hours of community service.  At the trial I read the following statement:

For our non-violent protest against rapes at UVA we were swiftly arrested.  Yet repeated reports of sexual assaults on  campus are ignored by the university and Charlottesville police department.  I plan to do my community service for an organization which is working to address this injustice.

The first time i got arrested I made friends with an impressive man named Louis Corn.  He was in his 70s and had been arrested many times for protest.  When I asked him why, he said “Well, this body is not much good for hard work no more.  But I can still throw it onto an unjust state.”  I don’t do that much hard physical work, but I am looking forward to the day when I can take the chance my inspiring old friend did regularly and try to hang a jury and embolden others to fight for justice.

hang the jury

The Elephant and the Bee

It is busy season.

Most of my days start the same way.  Jah and i find each other somewhere between his blueberry pancakes (he often does a breakfast shift, despite the fact we have no agreement anyone will cook breakfast) and the smoke shack at Acorn.  We go into the seed picking room and stare down a huge collection of orders.  Then, we sort them, taking the smallest ones (typically 5 items or less) and put them in one pile the rest in another.

Now our dance begins. Jah and i spin around the seed picking room, grabbing orders and dodging each other.  Jah is especially good with large orders, strong solid picking.  The nature of small orders is that you are running around the room a bunch and (if you are like me) trying to fill several orders as once, so you can avoid doubling back.

Tiny holes int he system, unpickable seed tracking

Tiny holes in the system- unpickable seed tracking

Jah is the elephant knocking down huge trays of seeds.  I am the bee, buzzing around him and flying around the room.  We move with haste, people get bumped into occasionally and brushed up against all the time, it’s is just what is happening in the busy seed picking office early in the morning. elephantbees We are regulars, but there are lots of people in the picking room these days.  The late night crew picked orders at 2 AM this morning. Aster, Sunshine and Jah were part of that.  Para and Lola were in this morning with us. Picking seeds for orders is the beginning of our order fulfillment process.

Anyone who has worked in the tofu hut (or has studied industrial engineering) knows that the first step of the assembly line is the heartbeat of the entire process.  The full line can’t go any faster.  And the speed of the first step often drives the speed of the entire line.  We want to pick everything that comes in during the say the same day.  This insures that the shippers (who make custom bundles for mailing of our picked orders) are always busy, if there is anything for them to process.  Jah and i are determined to keep the picking room heartbeat thumping right along.

Sales are up.  We are picking and packing much faster (in part because some packing is being done by the new seed packing robot, which some of us are referring to as HAL) than previous years.  Almost all the varieties are in stock.  Ken and Irena and Charlotte are making sure all varieties are packed and ready for us (which is why there are so few numbers on the daily Unpickable Seeds sheets depicted below).  It feels like a well oiled machine.

And it feels like an anarchist Utopian dream.  Almost all the workers are self assigning almost all the time.  There are people, like Irena, Ira, Ken and myself who almost always have tasks which people can help with.  Sometimes we are approached, other times we approach people.  And especially during this season, when everyone is hustling, almost everyone says “yes” most of the time when asked if they can help.    [Ken points out that accountability of task work also helps us maintain quality.  At each step the worker records what they did so that workers further down the chain can gently inform folks earlier in the process about mistakes they made. ]

The structure is almost as flat as it can be. It is trust based, so there are no time clocks.  It is trust based, so no one is telling you to work faster or longer.  It is trust based, so you need to do your own quality control.  It is trust based, so for most people the only person who really knows if you are doing your share is you.  And it all mostly works.

All manner of things are possible, in a trust based system.

All manner of things are possible, in a trust based system.

People work because it is clear there is lots of work to do.  People work because we make most of the money the community needs and uses in these few months.  People work because the work is super pleasant and relaxed and better than any light physical work than anyone ever had before they got here, and there is this distant fear that if we don’t all do our parts here, some of us might end up back there in jobs which were considerably less wonderful. People work because they can stop when they like and switch jobs when they want to.  People work because they want to show up in community as a contributor to this thing that they believe in.

So much smoother than last year.

So much smoother than last year.

Turns out the money thing is not all it is cracked up to be.

Letter to Tom Farrell on the foolishness of the proposed North Anna 3 Nuclear Reactor

Not on our Fault Line:  No New Nuclear Reactor at North Anna

Under designed for earthquakes which have already happened.

Under designed for earthquakes which have already happened.

TO:  Thomas F. Farrell, II, CEO, Dominion Resources

Robert Blue, President, Dominion Virginia Power

Governor Terry McAuliffe

Members of the Virginia General Assembly

Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners

Virginia State Corporation Commissioners

Dear Thomas Farrell, CEO Dominion Resources, Robert Blue, CEO Dominion Virginia Power, Governor McAuliffe, Virginia General Assembly Members, Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Members of the State Corporation Commission:

On behalf of our members and supporters, we are writing to express our opposition to a third nuclear reactor at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Virginia.  The $10 to $20 billion required to build North Anna 3 would result in major electricity cost increases for residential and business customers when our future electricity needs can be met more effectively through less costly investments in efficiency programs and renewable energy such as solar and wind. Investments in efficiency and renewable energy would create more Virginia jobs and result in a more diverse and resilient electricity generation mix and in lower utility bills than development of North Anna 3.  Furthermore, the construction and operation of this new reactor on an active earthquake fault line would jeopardize the reliability of our electricity service, threaten water resources, endanger public health, and create security risks for the people living in Central Virginia and beyond.

North Anna 3 – Far Too Expensive

While Dominion has declined to provide a cost estimate for the North Anna 3 reactor, Detroit Edison which is proposing to build the same reactor design is estimating more than $10 billion to complete the project.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission only recently approved this reactor design (the GE-Hitachi ESBWR) which has never been built, so billion dollar cost overruns and multi-year construction delays, common in the nuclear reactor industry, are highly likely.  These economic factors put both customers and shareholders at risk.

At a cost of $10 billion, development of North Anna 3 would be the equivalent of more than $2,900 per unit for each of the 3.4 million housing units in all of Virginia, not just Dominion’s service territory.  Most of the jobs associated with development of the North Anna 3 Reactor would be temporary, only during the construction phase, and would be concentrated in just one region of the state. Equivalent, or significantly smaller investments in efficiency, solar and wind would save and/or generate more electricity with longer term jobs and greater economic benefits spread across the entire state.

Risks to Grid Security and Resiliency

The August 2011, 5.8 magnitude earthquake near the North Anna Power Station took the two existing reactors (1,800 MWs of capacity) offline for more than three months. Recent maintenance problems at the two reactors (damaged fuel rods, leaks) suggest that the two reactors are still experiencing problems related to the quake.   A more serious earthquake,  after construction of a third reaction, could take more than 3,300 MWs of power off the grid immediately and indefinitely impact the security and resiliency of our electricity supply.  Alternatively, investment in efficiency and renewable energy provide for distributed generation, not vulnerable to any single natural event like an earthquake or severe storms.  Distributed generation is also far less vulnerable to terrorist attacks or sabotage.

Environmental and Safety Concerns

Building a new reactor on a known active earthquake fault line is a foolhardy, risky decision not only from the standpoint of ensuring a reliable and resilient electricity supply, but from a safety perspective as well.  The 2011 Fukushima accident may represent a worst case scenario, however, any significant reactor accident disrupts the regional economy and risks people’s health and safety for years, even decades.  There are also serious questions regarding the ability of Lake Anna to provide an adequate water supply and cooling capacity for three reactors. The current dam containing Lake Anna needs modernization, and Lake Anna regularly exceeds acceptable temperature limits.

Nuclear waste disposal continues to be a serious problem for the nuclear industry and our nation. Currently, all high level nuclear waste is stored on site at both the North Anna and Surry Nuclear Power Stations.  There are inherent risks associated with onsite waste storage as was demonstrated with the Fukushima accident.   Additionally, the full cost of perpetual maintenance of high level nuclear waste is borne by taxpayers.

Not on our Fault Line:  No New Nuclear Reactor at North Anna

We urge Dominion Virginia Power and the state of Virginia to pursue a clean energy plan which excludes the expansion of nuclear power at North Anna.  The cost of a third reactor at North Anna will likely exceed $10 billion, money that can be invested more wisely in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Sincerely,

Not on Our Fault Line

350 Central Virginia

350 Loudoun

Alliance for Progressive Values

Beyond Nuclear

Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

eNRG – Energizing Renewable Growth

Friends of the Earth USA

Friends of Nelson

Mothers United Against Uranium Mining

Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)

Peoples’ Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE)
The Rainbow Warriors

Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter

Virginia Organizing

Wild Virginia

Willow is a Teenager

It was about midnight at the fabulous Validation Day party.  Willow and the gaggle of friends who had come up for his 13th birthday were no doubt safe killing zombies or the digital equilvalent somewhere on our 450 acre campus.  Sky and i caught each other between songs on the dance floor.

“Do you have Willow tonight?” i asked

“He does not need us, he is a teenager now.” Sky quipped

And while it was mostly a joke, there was some recgnition that even in the insular world of the income sharing intentional community, our son was becoming more independent, more self reliant and less in need of direct supervision or support from his flock of parents.

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Sadly, we retreated from the lovely complex rules of Capture the Flag 2.0.  It was deemed too hard to teach and we were in a hurry to get out into the cold and get playing.

Willow in hot persuit

Willow in hot persuit

Willow’s team won twice before the cold overwhelmed the group.  [Pro tip – attrition.  Wait for the other team to have too many members in jail and then overwhelm their strained defenses.]  This game had lots of running through the woods which makes it easy to wipe out and out maneuver your pursuer.  The kids seemless intergrated in the small handful of Acorners i brought over for the fun.

Willow plus closest friends - almost all commune kids.

Willow plus closest friends – almost all commune kids.

Willows friends almost all either live in the commune now or did at one point.  One of his best friends is Adrian, who left the commune when Willow was 2.  Adrian is now 17 (Willow is 13 if that was not clear).  But like many kids who grow up at the commune, there is some special home like aspect that brings them back to visit and maintain friendships.  A dozen years ago Adrian did child care for Willow.  Now they team up to take on zombies or their digital equivalents via online chat.

The  bunny ears were a gift from Gwen.  Orion and Jonah flank Willow.

The bunny ears were a gift from Gwen. Orion and Jonah flank Willow.

The parents will stick around for a bit longer, in case he needs us for something.

Me guarding Jonah who is inches from the flag.

Me guarding Jonah who is inches from the flag.

LOVE, ANTI-WAR, BEHEADING AND VALENTINES DAY

By David Solnit

A few years back I did research on today’s namesake St. Valentine– an anti-war outlaw of sorts. Here’s what I found:

We may owe our observance of Valentine’s Day to the Roman celebration of Lupercalia, a festival of eroticism that honored Juno Februata, the goddess of “feverish” (febris) love. Annually, on the ides of February, love notes or “billets” would be drawn to partner men and women for feasting and frolicking.

St Valintine


In an effort to do away with the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius ordered a slight change in the lottery. Instead of the names of women, the box would contain the names of saints. Both men and women were allowed to draw from the box, and the game was to emulate the ways of the saint they drew during the rest of the year. Needless to say, many of the young Romans were not too pleased with the rule changes. Instead of the pagan god Lupercus, the Church looked for a suitable patron saint of love to take his place. They found an appropriate choice in Valentine, who, in AD 270 had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius.

Claudius had determined that married men made poor soldiers. So he banned marriage from his empire. But Valentine would secretly marry young couples that came to him. When Claudius found out about Valentine, he first tried to convert him to paganism. But Valentine reversed the strategy, trying instead to convert Claudius. He failed and was imprisoned.

During the days that Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer. His love for her, and his great faith, managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness before his death. Before he was taken to be beheaded, he signed a farewell message to her, “From your Valentine.” The phrase has been used on his day ever since.

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